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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rabbi Aryeh Leib HaCohen Heller - The Ketzos HaChoshen Needs No Introduction
The parents of Rav Aryeh Leib HaKohen Heller were so poor that when they became engaged no one could figure out how they would manage to have food to eat.  They went to a local tzaddik to consult with him on the matter.  He said not to break the shidduch due to finances, but rather he suggested that the girl continue to eat in her parents home and the boy in his parents home. History would not have been the same without this ingenious solution.  This marriage produced both Rav Aryeh Leib the author of the Ketzos HaChoshen and his older brother Rav Yehuda Kahana the author of the Kuntras HaSfeikos, both worthy descendants of their illustrious ancestor Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller the Tosfos Yom Tov.  The Ketzos, born in 5505/1745 in Kalusz, Galicia, grew up with his mother and his brother with his father, until they managed to afford a house and the family was united.

Rav Aryeh Leib went ot learn in the famous Yeshiva of Rav Meshulam Igra.  Rav Meshulam's Yeshiva produced some of the greatest ge'onim of the generation including Rabbi Mordechai Bennet, the Rov of Nikolsburg, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Ropshitz, Rabbi Baruch Frankel-Teomim, the Rov of Lipnik, and Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum, the Rov of Lissa and michaber of the Chavas Daas and Nesivos.

Rav Aryeh Leib was appointed Rov of Rosiantov at a very young age.  In this small poor community he continued to lead a life of dire poverty.  His table consisted of a board held up by two barrels.  It was there that he wrote his famous work the Ketzos HaChoshen.  It was so cold in his dwelling that he used to keep the ink under a pillow as he wrote so it wouldn't freeze.

His Sefer Ketzos HaChoshen is considered one of the greatest works on Choshen Mishpat.  The story is told that after completing it at the age of 40, Rav Aryeh Leib went to Rav Tzvi Hirsh Boshka to receive a haskama.  Skeptical that that this young Talmid Chochom could add anything novel to what the famous Gaon Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz wrote in his sefer Urim V'Tumim, he asked him to leave the sefer and come back the next day.  The next day before mincha, Rav Aryeh Leib heard an announcement that there will be Sefer Torah dedication that evening with the procession going from the Rov's house.  During the procession Rav Aryeh Leib came near the torah hoping to have a chance to carry it.  As he came up to the Torah, the Rov lifted the cover of the torah and lo and behold underneath was not a torah it was the manuscript that Rav Aryeh Leib gave the Rov the night before.  A living sefer torah.

It is said that when Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz asked his Rebbi, Rav Chaim Brisker, why he spends so much time giving shiurim on Kodshim and not Nashim and Nezikin he said that he was scared to say something the Ketzos would disagree with.

The Ketzos made an impact on the entire Torah world and Rav Aryeh Leib's name became known far and wide.  So much so that even though he was a staunch Misnaged and upheld the Vilna Gaon's ban against Chasidim which was written in his day, he was still widely respected by Chasidim and Misnagdim alike.  In fact after placing a Cheirem on the Chasidim in the city of Stry, where he was then serving as Rov, the chasidim decided to travel to their Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, to complain.  Before even knowing their story, the Chozeh instructed his gabbai that the group from Stry would need to wait two weeks before coming in to him.  That happened to coincide with the ending of the 30 day cheirem.  When they finally gained an audience with the Chozeh, he chastised them for not showing enough respect for Rav Aryeh Leib.

Rav Aryeh Leib Heller was niftar on 19 Teves 5573/1813.  He did not leave this world without making his mark on all future generations.  He wrote three landmark works in the Ketzos HaChoshen, Avnei Miluim, and Shev Shmatza.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!
RELATED ARTICLES:biography  Choshen Mishpat  Chozeh of Lublin  Ketzos HaShulchan  Rav Chaim Soloveitchik  Tosfos Yom Tov

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Visitor Comments: 1

YH, 2010-01-05 13:24:26
The last part, about the cherem, is incorrect. He, as the rav of the town, had said not to do Kiddush Levana in the second half of the month with a bracha and the Chassidim did so anyway, so he put whoever did that in nidui for 30 days. Since they couldn't be in town for 30 days, they went to the Chozeh. The Chozeh upheld the nidui and did not allow them near him for 30 days either.

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